Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The King at 75

We don't have to wonder too much about how Elvis Presley would look like at age 75, because he looked more like that than he did 42, which was his age at death.

The King would be 75 this Friday, if he hadn't accelerated his demise with a cornucopia of drugs and bad diet.

We get besieged twice a year by all things Elvis---right around now, and again in mid-August, denoting his death on the 16th in 1977.

But this is a biggie---the diamond anniversary of Presley's birth in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Presley, at his best, was maybe the sexiest man alive. You can debate until the wee hours his actual musical talent, but he was an entertainer, not necessarily a musician. And yes, there's a difference.

But there was no debating his sexual allure. Perhaps he never looked better than in 1968, when his nationally-televised "comeback" concert showed him as a 33-year-old, smirking, playful, good-humored man who engaged his live audience in a very intimate, "in the round" setting.

Some celebrities, I believe, simply weren't destined to grow old. They live forever in our minds as young, attractive, and iconic. Marilyn Monroe would be 83 years old today. Can you imagine?

Oh, Presley did indeed grow old, but not for very long, and not very publicly. But there were some awkward, clear-your-throat-and-look-the-other-way moments. One of them happened in the Pontiac Silverdome.

It was New Year's Eve, 1975, and The King played the Dome (it was actually called PonMet back then---short for Pontiac Metropolitan Stadium, its original name). Sometime early in the show, Presley made a signature move and....rrrrip! He burst through a seam in his pants.

The crowd waited politely while Presley changed into a backup pair of pants.

This was about 20 months before he passed away, bloated and moody.


Presley, gettin' near the end


Whenever I think of Elvis, I think of a Johnny Carson joke.

It was around the time that the U.S. Postal Service came out with commemorative stamps of Presley---one that showed him as a young man and one that portrayed him older and more mature. The stamps came to be known as "young Elvis" and "old Elvis."

"I'm not going to say the mail is slow these days," Carson said during a monologue. "But I sent a letter using the 'young Elvis' stamp and by the time it arrived at its destination, it had the 'old Elvis' stamp on it."

Well, I thought it was funny.

What wasn't funny, of course, was the demise of a once healthy, once vibrant, once sexy beast of a man. All because of those damn drugs.

Elvis would be 75 this Friday. Not that there would be much shake, rattle, or roll left in him. There wasn't much at age 42, really.

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